NASA’S MARS HELICOPTER SURVIVES 1ST NIGHT ALONE
NASA's Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, has survived its first cold night alone on the red planet, Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported for Business Insider.
After slowly unfolding from its hideaway in the rover Perseverance's belly, the 4-pound helicopter dropped the last four inches to the ground on Saturday. By weathering freezing temperatures, Ingenuity has overcome one of the biggest hurdles in NASA's quest to fly the first drone on another planet.
Ingenuity is set to conduct its first Martian flight as early as Sunday. If that goes well, the space drone will have a roughly 30-day window to attempt up to five increasingly difficult flights, venturing higher and further each time.
NASA's Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity to Mars, will perch nearby and record video.
That footage will help NASA collect crucial data about this technological demonstration, and it could pioneer a new method of exploring other planets. Having been deployed, Ingenuity is now in position for those flights.
The space agency spent $85 million developing Ingenuity. The rotorcraft has already proved tough enough to survive the nearly 300-million-mile journey to Mars and weather the planet's extreme temperatures.
But it also has to fly. Mars has an incredibly thin atmosphere; it's just 1% of the density of Earth's. To catch enough air, the helicopter's four carbon-fiber blades have to spin in opposite directions at about 2,4evolutions per minute - about eight times as fast as a passenger helicopter on Earth.